Tuesday, 11 October 2011

A Theology of Gift

In my seemingless endless quest to finish my PhD and spend my free time watching Buffy and eating hummous guilt-free (obviously I still do this but I feel bad about it at the moment), I just found this gem of eucharistic theology:
‘In reality, this is all one gift, forever repeated differently, whose lineaments cannot be disentangled without seeming to be laid out in stages: we receive our capacity to receive in receiving that which we are to receive; to receive our humanity, we must already receive the gratuitous excess of divinity, and to receive the gift of humanity and divinity, we must already have begun to transmit this gift.’
 For some reason, it made me think of this:


Saturday, 8 October 2011

Gardens of Delight

Every boy by the end of his teens believes he has eaten the perfect kebab. Usually this has happened in an early ecstatic intoxication, when the buzz of alcohol is undiluted by developed resistance, when flirtation seemed like transcendence and every night seemed endless and magical. I, no less, first in Swansea and then in Exeter delighted in this after-hours pursuit, chasing the dead lamb, finally coming to what seemed like perfection at Uncle Raj’s. Not my uncle you understand. Everyone’s uncle.

But, while foreign excursions to the Middle East barely registered, this all changed in Cambridge. Once I got my hot hands on a kebab from Gardenia’s I found out that heaven was wrapped up in fresh salad and tsatsiki. So good was this experience that I started going there for lunch after doing my postman’s round. Gardi’s remained unsurpassed for years (though it was approached by some excellent Nan kebabs from curry mile in Manchester).

Well. This has all changed and, like Augustine grimacing at a rotten pear, I have realised the errors of my puerile confusion. For happenstance has conveyed me to live within a stone’s throw of the Edgware Road. If you have not been transported by the epiphanic release of Lebanese shawarma, then I’m sorry but as far as I am concerned your life is a damned lie and you are unredeemed with poverty.

Just over a year ago a latish night turned into a hospital trip as a friend got sick. Finally she discharged herself at 6am and we stumbled down Edgware Road where, to our unsurpassable delight, Cafe Helen, queen of kebaberies remained steadfastly open inviting our trade for an experience both carnal and spiritual. This is the attitude that will take us out of dull austerity measures. Rushed lunches have since conveyed me to various establishments of “Londonistan” and to unrivaled pleasures.

My last heady trip, this week, left me guiltily failing to conceal cumin-stained breath and a soggy fat-greased paw as I greeted a pram-pushing parishioner. She smiled as she passed on her way to Edgware Road, though, so I suspect she too had indulged in the fleshly temptations of schawarma.

The sharpness of youth so often crystalizes into memories our experience later falls short of, as though the fiery sword of the cherubim guards the way back to our youth. The joy of newly experienced delight though is a reminder that for all the romanticising of youth, we are always on the edge of glory, or as the angel put it: ‘then the earth/ Shall all be paradise, far happier place/ Than this of Eden, and far happier days.’ Experience may bring us to a torture garden, but it may also bring us to a new garden of delights.
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